Last summer, the Episcopal Church added dozens of new individuals to be commemorated in the church calendar on what they're calling a provisional basis. Today is set aside for Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson, religious leaders in colonial times, and considered the founders of the state of Rhode Island.
Williams was born in London around 1604 and emigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his wife in 1631. Already somewhat notorious in England for his views on religious freedom, he became equally controversial in Massachusetts. He clashed with the Puritan leaders and left the colony to found a settlement farther south which he named Providence. His new government was set up to expressly provide religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
He also started what many believe to be the first Baptist congregation in this country, still in operation as the First Baptist Church of Providence. Before long he found the Baptists too restrictive as well; his famous quote was "God is too large to be housed under one roof."
Williams was also known for his support of the Native American tribes of New England. He wrote the first study of the language of the Narragansett people, A Key Into the Language of America (1643). The book also included some "moralistic poems" such as this one, which were sung as hymns in some places (and thus are among the earliest hymns written in this country).
God makes a path, provides a guide,
And feeds in wilderness;
God's glorious Name, while breath remains,
O that I may confess.
Lost many a time, I had no guide,
No house but hollow tree;
In stormy winter night, no fire,
No food, no company.
In God I found a house, a bed,
A table, company;
No cup so bitter but made sweet,
Where God shall sweetening be.
Roger Williams, 1643; alt.
Tune: YORK (C.M.)
Scottish Psalter, 1650
Roger Williams's co-commemorant today, Anne Hutchinson, did not write hymns, but she's very interesting in her own right and you could do worse than to read more about her.
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